1. Ravage, devastate, lay waste all refer, in their literal application, to the wholesale destruction of a countryside by an invading army (or something comparable). Lay waste has remained the closest to the original meaning of destruction of land: The invading army laid waste the towns along the coast. But ravage and devastate are used in reference to other types of violent destruction and may also have a purely figurative application. Ravage is often used of the results of epidemics: The Black Plague ravaged 14th-century Europe; and even of the effect of disease or suffering on the human countenance: a face ravaged by despair. Devastate, in addition to its concrete meaning (vast areas devastated by bombs), may be used figuratively: a devastating remark.